Goodbye July: Will club improve in August?

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was a quiet and introspective clubhouse following a 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that tightened the AL West race once again.

The Texas Rangers lead the Angels by three games as the calendar flips to August. It's the closest the Angels have been to Texas since June 14, and it's another indicator that the teams are trending in opposite directions.

To put it simply, the Rangers are in a serious funk right now.

It starts with the offense, but injuries and inconsistent play have infected part of the pitching staff, too. In fairness, very few offenses look good against Jered Weaver. The Angels ace was solid again Tuesday, pitching 6 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on five hits. But Tuesday's game followed what is now a two-month pattern. Texas hasn't been able to consistently get the clutch hits when needed and isn't putting the same amount of pressure on opposing pitchers that it did earlier in the season.

"We have to just keep playing hard," said Michael Young, who was the only Ranger to have multiple hits off Weaver. "We've got a talented group and big-time competitors. We'll just keep playing hard."

One piece of good news for Texas is that July is over. It was not a memorable month for the Rangers. They were 9-14 (.391) for the month and are just 7-9 since the break. Last year a strong July helped build the division lead for the Rangers and give them some momentum for the rest of the summer. It's the first time since August 2008 that they were at least five games under .500 in a month. Much of the blame falls on the offense, which has had trouble scoring runs. The Rangers scored 81 runs in July, the fewest by any American League team (an average of 3.52 per game). They hit just .243 (24th in the big leagues).

On Tuesday, the top four hitters in the Rangers' lineup -- Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz -- were 0-for-16. It seems that at times nearly everyone in the order has been in a slump of sorts. The club itself noticed, calling a hitters meeting over the weekend.

"We’re grinding as hard as we can," manager Ron Washington said. "It is the dog days, but we’re grinding as hard as we can. You’ve got to just work your way through it, and we will."

Perhaps a new month will help give the club a new mindset. It won't be an easy one. Seven of the teams they play have at least .500 records and most of them are either leading their division or in the thick of the race for one of the wild card spots. But no matter what, they've got to start hitting the ball better to find some momentum and get a streak going.

"We're just in a funk right now," closer Joe Nathan said. "There's nothing we can do except come here and continue to work and get better and play the game. It's not like we're going to reinvent the wheel. It's about going out and playing baseball and hopefully this thing turns around. You've just got to play through these things sometimes. We're in a little bit of a funk and it's at the wrong time when we've got this team in town. We've got good enough players in here that things are going to turn around."

They hope it's this week with two more games against the Angels.

"The first two games haven't gone very well, but we could just as easily take hte next two and even the series," David Murphy said. "If we come out tomorrow fired up and play our game, I think we'll take care of busines and hopefully we can get the last one."

Murphy said no one is surprised by how well the Angels are playing, turning things around after going 8-15 in April.

"They're a solid team," Murphy said. "Obviously Mike Trout stands out because he's 20 years old and is tearing up the league," Murphy said. "Albert Pujols is back to form. They're playing like everybody expected them to when the season began. We knew they'd come around. There are two months left and it's going to be fun to see. They're playing well right now. We're obviously not playing our best. With this group of guys, I like our chances. At some point, and I think it will be sooner rather than later, we'll get on a roll and start playing great baseball."